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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at

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Maineiac Outdoors with Carey Kish
Posted: April 14, 2015

Six-Moon Journey: Good old Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee

Carey Kish is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a distance of 2,200 miles over a period of 5-6 months. Entries from Carey’s trail journal are presented here (read them all). You can also follow his journey on his Facebook page.

April 8, 2015: Mollies Ridge Shelter to Derrick Knob Shelter, 12.0 miles, 9:15am to 4:15pm.

Put the book down at 8 o’clock last night and that pretty much the last thing I knew about until after 7 this morning. For once a real good night’s sleep, 11 hours all told. The heavy duty industrial ear plugs I picked up at Neels Gap sure did the trick, plus I was mega pooched from the day’s hike.

Lots of grassy areas covered with those delicate pink and white flowers today. Lots of high grassy fields too. And many fine view points. And the weather cooperated. A classic Smokies hiking day, all of it at the 5,000 foot level more or less. And always, to the left of the ridge is Tennessee and to the right, North Carolina. Fun to consider throughout the day.

The 5,000-foot crest of the Smokies, with TN to the left and NC to the right. Carey Kish photo.

The 5,000-foot crest of the Smokies, with TN to the left and NC to the right. Carey Kish photo.

Fine ridge walking with some decent ups and downs past Russell Field Shelter (right in the trail) and Spence Field Shelter (used to be on AT but no more; I did not veer off to visit). Beyond Spence came the summit I’d been waiting for and hoping for good weather, Rocky Top.

Climbed through the gnarled woods and thick grassy fields to reach the pinnacle that is Rocky Top, a smallish summit with an extraordinary vista in all directions. I don’t know who sang the old country song, “… Good old Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee,” but they were referencing this beautiful mountaintop. Could see all the along the crest of the Smokies to Doe Knob and Gregory Bald, as well down to Fontana Lake plus south over the Stekoahs. North it was Thunderhead. And all around so many peaks and valleys to astound the human eye and mind. One of the best summits on the entire AT in my opinion. Glad to have been blessed with a nice day to be here and take it all in.

Beyond Thunderhead Mtn I hiked and hiked and hiked, ridge and knob and gap. Somewhere along the way I finished my water. The sun was out and when there was no wind it was actually hot. But at Sugartree Gap I knew I only had a mile to go. But what a mile it was, tough as all get out with lots of steep eroded trail. Paused briefly at a big log to fill my face with salty snacks and chocolate.

Chugged into the shelter to find it almost full. Three spots left. I set out my pad and bag, but no sooner had I fine so than three other backpackers – non thru-hikers – arrived and wanted into the shelter. Last in, last out, so I had to leave. You seem here in the Smokies, there’s only four spaces in the 12-person shelters reserved for AT thru-hikers. And any regular backpacker with a reservation can bump you out. It’s not a good system. Oh well.

On the sky high pinnacle of Rocky Top at 5527 feet. Carey Kish photo.

On the sky high pinnacle of Rocky Top at 5527 feet. Carey Kish photo.

I grabbed my goods and headed over to the field just ahead of the shelter and erected my tent. Will be just fine out here tonight away from the hubbub of the shelter. Made trip to spring, put a line up to dry my socks and such, and lazed in the sun. As much as the nasty swarming black flies would allow anyway.

7:15 now, sun is dropping and air is cooling. Supper is done and the food bag has been hung on the bear cable. Not much else to do but relax. Gonna grab Steinbeck and see how things are progressing in Cup of Gold.

Tomorrow: Over Clingman’s Dome, at 6,655 feet it is the AT high point.

Sweet signs of spring at 5000 feet. Carey Kish photo.

Sweet signs of spring at 5000 feet. Carey Kish photo.



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